The man was sentenced to 12 years in jail, local media reported. Kang Wannian, a villager from Mengla, Yunnan Province, met the tiger in February while gathering freshwater clams in a nature reserve near China’s border with Laos. He claimed to have killed it in self-defence.
The only known wild Indochinese tiger in China, photographed in 2007 at the same reserve, has not been seen since Kang’s meal, the Yunnan-based newspaper Life News reported earlier this month.
The paper quoted the provincial Forestry Bureau as saying there was no evidence the tiger was the last one in China.
A local court sentenced Kang to 10 years for killing a rare animal plus two years for illegal possession of firearms, the local web portal Yunnan.cn reported. Prosecutors said Kang did not need a gun to gather clams.
Four villagers who helped Kang dismember the tiger and ate its meat were also sentenced from three to four years for “covering up and concealing criminal gains”, the report said.
The Indochinese tiger is on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 1,000 left in the forests of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.
Conservationists say there are just 3,200 tigers left in the world as the future of the species is threatened by poachers, destruction of their habitat and climate change.
The world population of tigers has fallen by 95 per cent in the past century.
The WWF said it intends to intensify pressure to save the Panthera tigris by classifying it as the most at risk on its roster of 10 critically endangered animals.
It hopes to increase patrols and work with politicians to eradicate poaching and thwart illegal trade of tiger skins and body parts.
The wildlife charity also aims to work with governments to encourage more responsible forest management and compensation for farmers whose livestock are killed by tigers to avoid them being hunted.
Diane Walkington, head of species programme for the WWF in Britain, said: “This year has been designated the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations and so we have created a list of 10 critically important endangered animals that we believe will need special monitoring over the next 12 months.
“This year will also be the Chinese Year of the Tiger, and so we have put it at the top of our list. It will have special iconic importance. – telegraph